Master in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology University of Helsinki
Which species are able to adapt to environmental change?
Ecology and evolutionary biology offer a perspective on biology from the level of genes to communities of species. In the Master's programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, you become familiar with a wide variety of topics in three areas: ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology.
The programme is diverse and multidisciplinary. You attend lectures, laboratory and computer training courses, interactive seminars and study tours. The field courses range from the northern subarctic region to tropical rainforests. You also benefit from the Centres of Excellence of Metapopulation Biology and Biological Interactions that are located in the department.
Ecology and evolutionary biology offer a perspective on biology from the level of genes to communities of species.
In the Master's Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, you can become familiar with a wide variety of topics in three areas: ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. You can choose studies from any of these areas, as well as from other master's degree programmes.
The programme is diverse and multidisciplinary: teaching is done with lectures, laboratory and computer training courses, interactive seminars, study tours and field courses. The field courses range from the northern subarctic region to tropical rainforests.
Our wide expertise extends from molecular ecology to population and community biology. The Centres of Excellence of Metapopulation Biology and Biological Interactions are located in our department.
Our programme offers you a wide range of options: evolutionary biology or genetics for those interested in ecological genetics and genomics, as well as the ability to take advantage of the high-quality molecular ecology and systematics laboratory; conservation biology for those interested in regional or global environmental problems; and ecological modelling skills for those interested in computational biology. Our training also offers Behavioural Ecology.
Upon graduating, you have the capability to embark on a wide range of careers, such as University teaching and research tasks, expert and administrative tasks at research centres and companies, in the field of public administration (e.g., the United Nations, the European Union, national and provincial administration, cities and municipalities), international and national organisations and the media. In addition, the degree makes you eligible to continue with postgraduate studies in different areas of biology.
For Finnish and Swedish speaking students, the programme also provides an opportunity to study towards a biology teacher qualification.
You undertake modules producing a total of 120 credits (ECTS) according to your personal study plan. The degree consists of:
90 credits of advanced studies, including a research project (Master’s thesis, 30 credits):
- Ecology, 5 credits
- Evolutionary biology, 10 credits
- Statistical methods in ecology, 5 credits
- Master’s degree seminar, 5 credits
- Master’s thesis course, 5 credits
- Master’s thesis, 30 credits
- 30 credits of alternative other studies chosen from the Programme
30 credits of optional other studies. You can choose studies from the Programme or from other Master's Programmes.
Career planning or extracurricular activities can be included in your personal study plan.
If you are studying to qualify as a biology teacher, you will need 60 credits of pedagogical studies and 60 credits of ecology and evolutionary biology in your degree. This applies only to Finnish or Swedish speaking students.
Content and Themes
The programme includes studies of ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. The studies are organised in modules. You can affect the content of the studies by planning your personal curriculum. You can study the following themes:
- Ecology studies the abundance and distribution of species (animals, plants, microbes) and the interactions among them and with the environment. The perspective ranges from the molecular to the ecosystem level. In ecology, a central question is: Why are some species able to invade new habitats and displace native species? Which species are able to adapt to environmental change or migrate with the changing climate, and which species will become extinct?
- Evolutionary biology examines the processes which support biodiversity on its various levels (genes – individuals – populations – species – ecosystems). You will learn about the theory of evolution and how to use population genetics and genomics methods in researching evolutionary issues.
- Conservation Biology studies the depletion of biodiversity, its causes and consequences. You will learn to apply ecological theory to the problems of environmental conservation, to assess the effectiveness of methods of conservation, as well as to resolve the problems relating to conservation e.g. by modelling and computational methods. The training emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary education in the area of conservation.
You can choose studies from any of these areas, as well as from other master's degree programmes.
Courses and Teaching
The Master's Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is diverse and multidisciplinary including studies of ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. The teaching is done with lectures, laboratory and computer training courses, interactive seminars, study tours and field courses. The field courses range from the northern subarctic region to tropical rainforests.
For example, the first course in the programme is Ecology (5 credits) which includes the one week Taiga excursion. The goal of the excursion is to familiarise both international and Finnish students to forests and bogs of several national parks and one strict nature reserve, representative of the at present rare taiga habitats in southern Finland. Also natural springs, eskers and sites of bog restoration and prescribed burning of natural fire areas will be visited. You also get to know other students in the programme during the excursion.
Master s Thesis
All students undertake a master's thesis, the extent of which is 30 credits. In your thesis, you will demonstrate your mastery of scientific thinking, your familiarity with the scientific background of your thesis and the relevant research methods, and your ability to report the results. Your thesis can be done individually or as a member of a research project in which you have a clear and independent role. You must, however, write your thesis independently.
In general, you will collect the data in the field or in the laboratory, analyse them, evaluate the results critically in the light of the scientific literature, and present your conclusions in writing.
Your Master's thesis can be done in one of the the research groups of the department.
You will have the opportunity to study at foreign universities and research institutions within the framework of an international student exchange. You can also gain valuable experience by working as a tutor of international students or participating in the international activities of the Student Union or other student organisations.
The teachers and researchers in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology are internationally known and respected. Their research groups host numerous international researchers as visitors and workers. They also employ many foreign graduate students, which creates an international atmosphere in the programme.
Students and Student's Life
Student life and especially the student organisation culture is exceptionally rich and diverse in Finland. Also at the University of Helsinki, the student community is very active.
More than 250 student organisations operate within the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY), ranging from faculty and subject organisations to political and societal organisations, and from choirs and orchestras to sports and game clubs. Their activities include anniversary celebrations, academic dinner parties, cultural events, get-togethers and excursions.
As a student and member of the Student Union (HYY), you are entitled to many benefits and services. For example, affordable student housing, basic healthcare services, sports facilities and student-priced meals. You also get numerous discounts, for example on public transport fees across the country.
Why Ecology and Evolutionary Biology?
Ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology are not only fascinating topics for basic research, but they also have a key role in addressing global environmental challenges.
Upon graduating from the Master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology programme, you will:
- Have mastered the main theories and methods in ecology and evolutionary biology and be able to apply them to practical problems
- Be able to plan and carry out a scientific research project
- Have read the relevant scientific literature and be able to utilise your expertise in different types of work
- Be able to work as an expert in your field
- Be able to write good scientific English
- Be able to work in research projects and groups
- Be able to continue on to doctoral studies
A degree from the Master's Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology gives you the capability to embark on a wide range of careers or continue with postgraduate studies in different areas of biology.